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Ex-governor, wrestler Jesse Ventura heads back to Russian TV

MINNEAPOLIS -- Former Minnesota governor and professional wrestler Jesse Ventura says he hasn't been able to find work since his highly-publicized defamation lawsuit against the estate of "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle, so he will work for Russian TV with a new commentary show.

Ventura told The Associated Press on Thursday that he has personal assurances from Russian President Vladimir Putin that "The World According to Jesse" won't be censored by the government-funded RT network.

Ventura, 65, lost his health insurance with the Screen Actors Guild last year because he wasn't doing enough work in the industry. The former governor said finding work has been a challenge because of the publicity generated by his lawsuit against Kyle's estate.

"I can't get a job in the U.S. No one will touch me," Ventura said. "My United States union throws me in the dirt and who comes to the rescue? Russia."

RT has provided the health insurance he lost with the actors guild, the Star Tribune first reported. Ventura said he signed a contract last fall for 32 shows, but hasn't yet filmed an episode, which he'll do in Minnesota. The first installment was to air in the next month or so, he added.

Ventura's 2015 show "Off the Grid" was produced by Ora TV, the on-demand network launched by TV host Larry King, and was carried by RT America, the U.S. channel of the Moscow, Russia-based RT network.

A federal jury in 2014 awarded Ventura $1.8 million in his lawsuit against his fellow Navy SEAL, Chris Kyle, who Ventura says defamed him by alleging he made derogatory remarks about the special operations force. The jury award was overturned by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2016.

The subject matter in Ventura's new show will be broad.

"It'll be my viewpoint on what's happening around the world," Ventura said. "I want to do it. But, in some ways I was forced to do it."

Ventura served as Minnesota governor from 1999 to 2003 as a member of the Reform Party.